Shocking Video of School Torturing Student With Disabilities Released

There are definitely ways to teach autistic children and children with disabilities that are effective and that take into account their different, individual, unique ways of being and interacting in the world. Unfortunately schools that often make the news employ “methods” that violate a child’s rights and that, sickeningly, cause physical and even psychological abuse. One such school is the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JREC) in Canton, Massachusetts, which has long been known — been notorious — for its use of electric shock to discipline students with disabilities including autism, mental retardation or emotional-behavioral issues.

On Tuesday, a stomach-turning video of a student at the JREC who was restrained and shocked for hours was played in court. Then 18-year-old Andre McCollins was a student at the JREC in 2002 when he was shocked 31 times on October 25 of that year because, as the video reveals, he refused to take off his coat. His mother, Cheryl, has filed a lawsuit.

(The video can be seen via Fox News. It is horrifying.)

A judge had ordered that the video of Andre’s ordeal be sealed eight years ago. But on Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara denied requests by the JREC’s lawyers to prevent FOX Undercover’s camera from recording the video as it was played. The Boston area Fox News affiliate describes the video, which was filmed by a classroom camera at the JREC:

Andre is shown seated at a desk inside a classroom as a staff member asks him several times to remove his coat. He stays still, apparently not responding or removing his coat, until he is given a shock.

He screams and falls to the floor, yelling as he tries to hide under his desk. He was eventually restrained face-down, a helmet on his head, without breaks for food, water or the bathroom.

Cheryl McCollins testified that, on visiting Andre three days afterwards, he was “catatonic.” She had him admitted to the hospital on the same day; Andre was diagnosed with acute stress response caused by the shocks. She also described watching the video and hearing staff members laugh while Andre was on the floor.

The JREC was founded by a Harvard-trained psychologist, Matthew Israel, and has long attracted controversy, and disgust, among disability rights activists, parents and professionals. In May of 2011, Israel faced criminal charges for a 2007 incident in which two teenagers with disabilities who were residents at the JREC were wrongfully administered a number of shocks after a prank phone call by someone posing as a supervisor ordered them. As part of a deal with the Massachusetts state attorney office, Israel was ordered to step down as director of the JREC (the JREC’s website says that he announced his “retirement” on May 2, 2011) and put on probation for five years. A court-appointed monitor is to oversee JREC’s daily activities.

As Cheryl McCollins said to the jury according to Fox News, ”I never signed up for him [Andre] to be tortured, terrorized and abused. I had no idea, no idea, that they tortured the children in the school.”

My own teenage autistic son has struggled with many of the most challenging behaviors mentioned in regard to autism including self-injurious ones like head-banging. He has been doing a lot better now; the frequency of such difficult things is much decreased. There are ways to teach autistic children and children with disabilities that do not involve restraints, physical abuse or electric shock — torture — such as the JREC is charged with committing.

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

171 comments

Frances Darcy
Frances Darcy3 years ago

This is legalised abuse..perpertrated by people who must be sadistic. What court gives anyone the right to inflict pain and suffering on another person.. especially those who can not protect themselves...I am sickened..if that happened to prisoners there would be prison riots..

Fi T.
Fi T.3 years ago

What's education?

Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly3 years ago

The nuts usually tend to be the ones running the asylum.

Filomena Correia
Filomena C.3 years ago

If they are able to torture children they must be in prison!

Aileen C.
Aileen C.3 years ago

Is anyone else having problems signing the Petition on this screen. I think I can't access them as I am In England???????

I also am having no luck with Redeeming by points again the Gift page is not working.
Can Anyone HELP PLEASE????????????????????????????????????????????

Aileen C.
Aileen C.3 years ago

I could not access the Video. This type of cruelty should carry a Probation Order at least

Leslirae Rotor
L. Rotor3 years ago

I could not access the video through the links provided. It appears that someone has succeeded in shutting them down. This is horrendous behaviour toward a disabled child and the cover -up makes it worse.

William Wilkerson

I believe that the Matthew Israel character NEEDS repeated, strong, unpredictable shocks to his genitoanal region for quite a long while - needless to say he would be kept awake during the proceedings courtesy of an adrenalin i.v. line... wouldn't want him to miss any of his "lesson".
Only REAL cowards harm children, women or animals.

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance3 years ago

This is outrageous! This is not teaching. This is extreme abuse and in my opinion, the school should be closed, or at least put under new permanent management with a wholesale change in teaching and therapeutic staff.

The video link in the story does not work and I presume because the judge, in a law suit brought by the McCollins family, has sealed it. There is the Fox News report and video at http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/17670904/teen-tied-and-shocked-for-hours-mom-calls-it-torture

Yvonne Taylor
Yvonne Taylor3 years ago

Disgusting and ignorant actions.